Portage took over sole possession of first place in the WestPAC North girls standings with a 70-48 victory over Conemaugh Valley on Tuesday night at Len Chappell Gymnasium.
“It’s no mystery how big this game was as far as the WestPAC North and District 6-A goes, and it’s a huge win for our program,” Mustangs coach Lance Hudak said after the win.
“We’re playing well. Offensively, there have been hills and valleys (this season). Some nights we are better than other nights and the shots are on and sometimes they’re not. We always tell the girls that you can always play great defense and that’s what got us to this point. Our girls just sell out on the defensive end. We’re all about extending the court and making teams go at our tempo, which is up and down the court, and that’s what we did tonight. I think we made Valley play a tempo that they didn’t want to.”
The Mustangs, who had nine players in the scoring column, got a game-high 22 points from Olivia McCabe, who also added eight rebounds. Emily Chobany supplied 20 points for Portage, now 14-1 overall and 8-0 in the North Section.
“(This win) means that people may actually take us seriously,” McCabe said. “We had to work on our press and drew fouls. We have to be smart and not get frustrated with ourselves because when you do that you do stupid things.”
The dominant win by the Mustangs gave them a sweep of the Blue Jays. When the teams met in December, Portage overcame a 16-point deficit and won by 12.
This time the Mustangs left nothing to chance, using their aggressive press to force Conemaugh Valley turnovers and converting on the other end. The upbeat tempo led to 26 Blue Jay turnovers.
The Jays led just once, 2-0, on a Lexi Hody basket before Portage went on a 13-2 run. Conemaugh Valley pulled to within two, 13-11, on a Kacie Smith basket, but could get no closer as Portage ended the frame with a 16-11 advantage.
The Mustangs poured it on in the second, scoring the first nine points and finishing with a 27-15 advantage for an imposing 43-26 lead.
Portage outscored Conemaugh Valley 22-9 in the third for a 30-point advantage,
65-35, heading into the fourth.
The Jays won the final quarter, 13-5.
“We weren’t 100 percent coming into the game and then we played far less than 100 percent during the entire game,” Conemaugh Valley coach Teri Cruse said. “I knew it was going to wear us down. We tried to work on defense for it and that comes down to lack of defense. We scored the points that we generally score in a game. We don’t let anyone score 70 points and we let them do it at will.”
Conemaugh Valley was led by 10 points and six rebounds from Emily McCray before she fouled out with 6:35 left in the game. Hody and Elaine Smith each had nine points for the Blue Jays (11-3, 6-2), who also got eight points and six boards from Kacie Smith.
“I am surprised at how well our team has been playing, but I just know that we’ve worked hard for this,” Chobany said.
“This is what we’ve been working on in the offseason and now and I’m happy to have a team like this that works this hard.”
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